In preparation for Saturday’s non-conference showdown between Rice and Texas A&M, Saturday Down South is taking a look at the key matchups that may decide the showdown between the Owls and Aggies.

Myles Garrett vs. Rice offensive line

Myles Garrett looks nothing like a true freshman.

Granted, at 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, he could stand to add some bulk to his frame in the next few seasons. But Garrett has been outstanding as a pass-rusher, collecting three sacks in his first six quarters of college football.

He could’ve made at least two more.

Garrett isn’t even a starter. Again, he needs some time in the weight room, and occasionally he may get tossed around this season by 300-plus pound offensive tackles if they can get their hands on him. He may have to dodge and run around blockers against the run rather than engage, knock backward and shed.

Garrett also could work on the angles he takes to the quarterback and making sure he turns his pressures into sacks consistently.

But his presence as an already-elite pass rusher gives a maligned Aggies defense a cornerstone.

Good offenses can exploit this Texas A&M secondary, all due respect to Deshazor Everett. It’s too early to declare that the Aggies have caulked the leaky defensive hull. But through two games, the unit has done enough to give the fans legitimate hope.

The freshman pass rusher is one of the main instigators.

Rice runs a spread option, which gave Texas A&M fits last season. Considering the Aggies face Auburn, Mississippi State and Ole Miss, this is a pop quiz of sorts for the defense.

Texas A&M should get a lead, freeing Garrett to terrorize the Owls offensive tackles, which are better blocking for the run than in pass protection. (To be fair, Rice right tackle Caleb Williams is an all-conference candidate and a solid overall player.)

But Garrett also gives the Aggies enough speed on the defensive line to chase down read option plays from the backside, an effective tool to have holstered in the shed. Agile, athletic defenders match up better with hurry-up offenses designed to keep the defense wondering who will get the ball and where.

Considering Rice churned out more than 500 yards of total offense in last year’s season opener, the Owls at least represent a pseudo test. Comparing this year’s performance with last year’s and parsing which portion should be credited to Garrett will be an informative exercise.